Why We Return.
A thoughtful answer to one of life’s meaner questions about toxic relationships
Not long ago I wrote a piece about having discovered that my toxic ex was back in town, and how damned hard it is to not look him up.
As well, how damned hard it has been for him to stop looking me up, and for both of us to quit this ugly-dance, which has been monumentally painful for us both.
I’ve been aware for a long time that anger and fury feed many of the same receptors in the brain that opioids do, but I hadn’t made the connection to a toxic relationship. It stands to reason, for the emotions are even deeper and more hurtful, therefore greater rage. Here’s the reason, from their article:
Unhealthy relationships also cause stronger trauma bonds (intense bonds resulting from shared emotional experiences) and an unwavering biochemical attachment. Research has shown that rejection by a romantic partner affects brain activity that is associated with addiction cravings, rewards and motivation; adversity-ridden relationships can also cause similar activity in the brain as cocaine (Fisher et. al, 2010; Earp et. al, 2017).
Look. For my part, when I have a much better understanding of the mechanics of what I do and why, I am no longer a victim of them. That doesn’t change their intensity. It does change the conversation. It gives me a road out, should I want it. And boy, do I want it.
Hence, the article appeared, right on cue.
I strongly, strongly advise those of you who, like me, have found yourselves in circular, toxic, painful and damaging relationships to read this article. It was like a blast of sunshine into a painful place. Most ugly things wither in the light of day.
Here’s their final paragraph:
When assessing whether to be friends with a toxic ex or give them a second chance, remember that true friends do not maliciously harm, exploit or use you. Do not remain friends with someone who has tried to destroy you in the past; they most likely are planning to do more of the same in the present. (author bolded)
This is good material. Because there are so many of us dealing with the same things, the greatest gift is to pass it on. These are words to heal by, to live by and to move on by.
The hurt may linger, but you and I need not continue to open the same wounds out of the desperate hope that this time it’ll be different. I’m not going to try to sell you on the lie that just knowing what you do is going to make breaking the cycle easier. Not at all. I spent forty years with eating disorders knowing precisely what I was doing and still unable to quit until I was ready. Deep habits are hard to break.
But awareness is the most important first step. Then commitment. Then being willing to do the hard slog of the step-by-step, day by day.
No, it won’t be easy. After I invested fifty thousand dollars, was subjected to twelve breakups, and a massive amount of pain, this particular ex would only come back for the free gifts, free blowjobs, free sex, and my slavish willingness to hope for what is not, never was and never will be available.
That’s prison. Needing to be right about this exchange, which would entail our getting back together so that I could prove it, is precisely what creates the cycle.
Let’s get out. Pass it on.